People should simply be charged with whatever the crime they are accused of committing.
I agree, in that prosecutors shouldn't be able to threaten charges of more grievous crimes as a bargaining chip. But one problem is that even the truly applicable charges can compound just as quickly; even given a reasonable prosecutor, the law allows and sometimes requires that they file multiple charges for the same crime.
I'll give an example. About 10 years ago, I was called for jury duty and selected for a case. I was dismissed during voir dire after expressing favorable opinions about firearms, but I was around long enough that I got to learn a bit about the case, the defendant, and the charges. In a nutshell, some guy got pulled over for a traffic violation and the cop subsequently found a gun and a blunt in his car. It was his bad luck that the traffic stop took place near a school.
For this, there was a laundry list of charges; something like:
- Disregarding a traffic control device
- Reckless endangerment
- Motor vehicle violation in a designated school zone
- Possession of narcotics
- Possession of narcotics within 1 mile of a school
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Possession of drug paraphernalia within 1 mile of a school
- Unlawful possession of a firearm
- Unlawful possession of a firearm within 1 mile of a school
- Unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon within 1 mile of a school
Everything he did, he was charged for again because the event took place near a school. Having some weed got him 4 misdemeanor charges (the cigar portion of the blunt was "paraphernalia" so they charged for that in addition to the weed). Having one handgun on him got him 4 separate felony charges. And here's the one that blew my mind, there was another charge worded something like "going armed during the commission of a felony." The felony he committed was being armed; it's a felony for a convicted felon to have a gun. So because he was armed while he committed that crime - yeah, seriously! - they tacked on another charge.
Wrap your head around that one:
Because you were carrying a gun while you were carrying a gun, we're going to charge you again.
It's like people who get arrested for resisting arrest; the circular logic is a complete perversion of justice. IIRC, it was that "going armed during the commission of a felony" charge that threatened the longest possible sentence out of all the infractions, and it was a completely bullshit charge to begin with.
Anyway, my point here is that the problem runs deeper than the prosecutors. The problem begins with the laws themselves. There are a lot of prosecutors out there who don't go overboard and reach for the stars, charging a jaywalker with murder or what have you. They don't need to, most of the time; the "legitimate" charges will stack up to enormous sentences all by themselves. We aren't going to get away from that until we revisit the vast corpus of shitty laws out there, especially the ones that require mandatory charges and leave no discretion to the prosecutor.